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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this documentary series takes an industry insider's perspective on models and the agency they work for. Because it includes a mix of both the glamorous and tedious elements associated with modeling, the show offers a pretty realistic sense of what the job entails. There's discussion of body size, eating disorders, and destructive behavior, as well as footage of models smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and wearing very little clothing (while working). Viewers see models posing provocatively and being asked about their bra size and other physical measurements.
What's the story?
MSNBC docuseries MODELS NYC takes viewers behind the scenes of a New York City modeling agency, offering a glimpse of the industry's real day-in, day-out mix of glamour and tedium. Focusing on boutique agency Q Management, the series follows several models on casting calls, photo shoots, and evening escapades. One-on-one interviews with the models accompany footage of life both inside and outside the agency as they compete for jobs with JLo Clothing, Macy's, and more. The series is fleshed out by interviews with other people in the business, including Q Management owner Jeff Kolsrud and several of his employees. Viewers also learn about some of the challenges models face, from former foster-care child Maria -- who's driven to make as much money as possible, perhaps to the detriment of her health -- to the experienced Sabrina, who admits to feeling "like a coat hanger" sometimes and craves a more creative outlet.
Is it any good?
Unlike many reality shows, the subjects of Models NYC don't pretend that the camera doesn't exist; instead, they interact with it, sometimes answering questions posed off screen and occasionally hamming it up. Consequently, the staged feeling that accompanies many reality shows is thankfully absent. And though the view from within the industry is understandably pro-modeling, the series also addresses the harsher realities of modeling life, from the businesses' age and body-type limitations to the lure of the nightlife and unhealthy behavior. While they're not the show's main focus, topics like eating disorders are addressed explicitly. Models speak frankly about their weight and have generally positive things to say about their bodies; one even admits that her body is just a lucky draw from the DNA bank and has nothing to do with hard work.
Parents who let their teens watch Models NYC might want to point out that the opinions offered about body type, attractiveness, eating disorders, etc., come from people whose income depends on the modeling industry. While viewers have no reason to suspect them of lying or being deceitful in any way, their viewpoints don't necessarily include other research or opinions on how the modeling industry affects women at large. Some objective statistics are offered via text at the bottom of the screen -- such as the difference between the average model's weight (110) and that of the average American woman (164) -- which may help trigger discussion.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the world of modeling. How do modeling standards differ from those of the real world? Which is more valued -- inner or outer beauty? Why? How does the ubiquity of thin models affect people's perceptions of healthy and attractive bodies? And for that matter, who's deciding how beauty is defined? Also, what's the appeal of being a model? Does watching this show give you a different sense of what being a model is really like? What is a reality series like this communicating to younger teens and tweens?